disc concentrates on repertoire which was played in North-German
cities by the 'Stadtpfeifer'. These were musicians who were
contracted by the local authorities to play music at official
celebrations, festival parades, royal visits and civic weddings
and baptisms. They also participated in church services and
church and school festivities. It was a much sought-after job,
which guaranteed a reasonable income, even though they didn't
earn as much as the organists and Kantors in church. Additional
incomes could come from performances for private people. They
could even be hired when someone wanted to bring a serenade
to a loved one.
things are characteristic for the Stadtpfeifer. First of all,
they played more than one instrument: the music the Stadtpfeifer
played was mostly composed for wind instruments, like cornet,
sackbut and dulcian, and the musicians usually played more than
one of these, sometimes even the violin as well. Secondly, they
were technically very skilled, as the pieces recorded here prove.
The music they used to play certainly wasn't easy stuff. And
before someone could become a Stadtpfeifer, he had to prove
his capabilities in an exam, which could include sight-reading.
it can't surprise that many highly respected musicians and composers
of the 17th and 18th centuries began their careers as Stadtpfeifer,
or were born in families of this kind of musicians. No less
than Johann Sebastian Bach came from such a family, and the
famous trumpeter Gottfried Reiche, for whom Bach composed some
of his most ambitious trumpet parts, was a Stadtpfeifer himself.
The Stadtpfeifer also played an important role in musical education,
which was taken over by the conservatories after the French
disc presents some typical examples of music which could have
been played by the Stadtpfeifer, and like them some of the players
on this disc play more than one instrument. The title is misleading:
most of the composers represented in the programme stylistically
belong to the Baroque period rather than the Renaissance. Is
that the reason the dates of birth and death of the composers
are omitted in the tracklist?
seems most sacred concertos here are related to Christmas (Nun
komm der Heiden Heiland, Vom Himmel hoch) or the turn of the
year (Das alt ist abgegangen). Whether Heinrich Albert's 'Bekehrung
zum Herren Christo' was composed for this time of the year as
well is impossible to say: I have never heard that piece before,
the booklet doesn't give the lyrics of the vocal items, and
the text is barely audible, as the rather soft voice of Mark
Chambers is overpowered by the wind instruments. The part seems
to be too high for him anyway, as his voice sounds stressed
on the top notes.
those pieces where he is supported by lute only, like the sacred
concerto by Johann Schop, it is easier to understand the text.
Here it is revealed that his German pronunciation is reasonable,
but certainly not impeccable. The articulation also leaves something
to be desired.
is a general problem of this recording. The disc opens with
one of the most famous pieces of the North-German Baroque, Samuel
Scheidt's Canzon super O Nachbar Roland. The performance is
too pale, and there is a lack of differentiation in articulation
and dynamics, and it doesn't really swing as it should. Some
of the readers of this review may be acquainted with the interpretation
of this piece by Hespèrion XX. If so, just listen how they play
this piece and bring it to life.
other pieces are realised better, for instance the Paduan by
Scheidt (track 7), with its dialogue between high and low instruments.
An example of the more intimate repertoire the Stadtpfeifer
played is Simpson's Ricercar super Bonny Sweet Robin, which
is performed here on two recorders with basso continuo.
disc also contains some pieces which didn't belong to the repertoire
of the Stadtpfeifer, like the lute pieces and Schildt's Paduana
Lachrymae, which is played on the harpsichord.
my view a lot more could have been made of this repertoire.
This recording isn't really satisfying, which is particularly
disappointing, as a number of pieces are not frequently performed,
like the works by Fuhrmann and Mertelius. And as informative
as the programme notes by Keith McGowan are, much more should
have been made of the booklet as well. Not only the lyrics of
the vocal items are missing, there is no reference to which
instrument is playing in which piece, nor the sources of the
music, nor is there any information about the composers.
tracklist is also confusing: nowhere is explained what the addition
'Argentinensis' to Mertelius' name refers to. And who is the
Praetorius whose music is played here: Hieronymus, Jacob or
Michael? It must be Michael, but the booklet should have been
more precise. And in tracks 13 and 15 two German composers are
listed, as well as Keith McGowan. But what exactly did he do:
arrange, or even compose? It is anybody's guess.
Johan van Veen